Pakistan v West Indies, 2nd Test, Multan, 3rd day November 21, 2006

Razzaq's Test credibility questioned again



Abdul Razzaq's batting has been found wanting in Test cricket © Getty Images

It is a question that comes to haunt Pakistan every now and again. It rears its head once again during this Test. Is Abdul Razzaq really worth a place in the Test side as an allrounder?

From his contribution here, over three days, tottering as it has somewhere between damaging and utterly irrelevant, the question isn't even worth asking. As Pakistan tumbled yesterday morning, runs were the hour's need. Razzaq proceeded then to make possibly the strangest unbeaten 16 in Test cricket. Off 92 balls, in over two hours, it was almost exactly what West Indies, not Pakistan, needed. He achieved the doubly difficult task of neither farming the strike nor scoring any runs. Singles were refused, yet the tail was still left with entire overs to face, it was inexplicable.

It was not a stray incident. At Melbourne in 2004-05, he made a painful, unbeaten four from 76 balls, though it was said he was unwell. In Colombo, also against Australia two years earlier, an excruciating four, from 52 balls, allegedly set the platform from one down for a 300-plus chase. Each time, it was so at odds with the surrounding context that you could only ask why. People say he knows only two gears in his batting - first and fifth - but an experienced ex-Test player and coach also observed that "he gets locked into the two modes, unable to switch between the two."

Move on: he's an all-rounder, so you expect some compensation with the ball. Except today, Umar Gul and Shahid Nazir might have received more support from West Indian batsmen. Nominally as a third seamer, Razzaq bowled a piddling ten overs all day, many without a purpose other than allowing us to appreciate the breadth of Brian Lara's off-side game between cover and third man.

Waqar Younis disagreed with reporters at a press conference later in the day that Razzaq wasn't a regular bowler. "All four are regular bowlers. Razzaq isn't in great form but his batting gives us a big edge."

Ninety-five wickets from 45 Tests at near 40.00, with one five-wicket haul are figures that would concern part-time bowlers. And a circle has more edge than his batting, if just two fifties in his last 25 Tests are anything go by.

Whichever angle you look at his Test career from, it doesn't make for pretty reading. Arguably, on only one Test has he had a genuine all-round influence - against India at Karachi recently, where seven wickets were complemented by innings of 45 and 90. Centuries, a hat-trick, occasional four-wicket hauls he has as well but they've been stretched out so much over an entire career it almost isn't worth noting.

Pakistan could have done with either a specialist batsman or a specialist bowler in this Test and currently Razzaq is neither. His place in the ODI side is the subject of less debate and rightly so, for he serves a purpose there but in Tests, increasingly it seems he is there on reputation and hope alone, neither of which is the right criteria. He is a big name in Pakistan cricket but as the West Indies showed with Ramnaresh Sarwan, they are not indispensable.

To be fair, Razzaq isn't the first, nor will he be the last, to look ordinary when the mood grabs Lara. Certainly not Danish Kaneria, who if he didn't know it already in his fourth Test against Lara, must know by now that the man can play spin. It's not as if Kaneria bowled badly and even Lara acknowledged that. He got sharp spin and bounce on occasion and troubled almost everyone else. Sure, the good balls didn't come consistently enough but he wasn't as bad as four an over from 41 overs, with only three wickets, was he? Though he rarely seems to bowl a genuinely poor spell, it just isn't happening for him right now, which can be either cause for worry or frustration. Time will tell.

Sometimes though, like Waqar chose to do, you just have to applaud genius. "It isn't the easiest pitch to bowl on. The bowlers tried their hardest but you also have to give full credit to their batsmen. Lara is a genius and you won't find many cricketers in the history of the game like him."

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo